Don't know if you've noticed but I've upped the posts to one every two days the rest of January and into February so I can post all kinds of things related to 2009's best and worst moments. I've gotten some best/worst lists of a few movie loving readers of CineRobot that I'll be posting in the upcoming weeks. I'll start off with my own list of ten films that I liked most in 2009. It's hard to put these films in an order but here's my list of films I enjoyed the most during the year.
I should admit that I did not see such films as Precious, The Informant!, The Messenger, Crazy Heart, Where the Wild Things Are and Police, Adjective (I really want to see this Romanian film) so they weren't up for consideration.
1. The Hurt Locker: Kathryn Bigelow's career defining film shoved me back in my seat and never let me catch a breath. Set among a bomb squad in Iraq, this is a war film that lets the raw depravity of war itself guide its message. Visceral from start to finish and with Jeremy Renner delivering an intense, swaggering performance. See it.
2. District 9: South African director Neill Blomkamp's debut is the first of three science fiction films to make my top ten. Blomkamp takes an incredibly cool idea--alien ship is stranded above Johannesburg and the inhabitants are forced to live in a militarized slum called District 9. The film follows aliens and locals alike as paths cross, do battle with crazed Nigerians as the aliens just want to leave the planet. Amazingly executed by Blomkamp, District 9 is a fun, entertaining thrill ride.
3. Sugar: I thought I'd seen the last of the great films set around baseball years ago but along comes Sugar to add to the list. The film tells the story of a young Dominican who comes to the United States to play baseball in the minor leagues. At times feeling like a documentary, we follow Miguel "Sugar" Santos as he struggles to adapt to life off the diamond while fighting the pressures to succeed on it.
4. Anvil: Documentary about a forgotten Canadian heavy metal band called Anvil that attempts to give them their due and new time in the limelight. The trio struggle to maintain hope they'll cut a new record that will alter their future while working soul-crushing jobs, go on a flaming disaster of a European tour, scream and fight with each other and try to get that record made. Sad, hilarious and inspiring.
5. Star Trek: That's right. I put Star Trek in my top five for the year. The most fun I had watching a film all year was Star Trek--and I had that fun three times over and almost a fourth. I was extremely worried about this origin story about the early days of all the iconic characters from my youth and for the most part J.J. Abrams and co. deliver all that I could want and more and actually made Star Trek cool. Shudder to think! It's still kind of hard to think about Spock and Uhura though. Live long and prosper.
6. Bright Star: Now for something totally different from Star Trek, Jane Campion's ode to the written word, poetry, love, romance and nature that is Bright Star. Hyper-literate, heart-wrenching and sensitive to its core, Bright Star makes me want to move to pastoral England, whip out my quill and unleash a torrent of verse on everything in my path.
7. Everlasting Moments: Harsh Swedish realism at the start of the 20th century is on display in this historical drama from Jan Troell. The film has a slow and methodical bent to it that only makes it more intense. Some of the subjects in the film (early photography, socialists on a violent strike) are things I love to see in movies which may have upped my love for it.
8. Up in the Air: Jason Reitman is on quite a roll and his latest is the best thing he's done. He's created a contained world where every little moment feels right. Perfectly cast and with every single actor nailing it, from the leads to the known supporting actors to the unknowns who appear as if they are in a documentary, Up in the Air is smart as a whip, darkly humorous and a bold statement on the current fragile American psyche.
9. (500) Days of Summer: I love romantic comedies but the sad fact is that it seems that every single one of them that comes out now is full of nincompoops and is predictable, saccharine drivel. (500) Days of Summer is something old-fashioned and that's maybe why I liked it so much--it's got smart, complicated characters; it's got chemistry between the leads; it's full of the pains of being ga-ga in love that only youth can inspire; it's got great music by The Smiths and it's got maybe the most over-the-top joyous scene to appear in a film all year. You'll know it when/if you've seen it.
10. Avatar: Sure, James Cameron's epic is a box-office monster, crushing all-comers with its hokey story. Sure, it could have had better written dialogue and the story was a bit of a re-tread but it's also the biggest "must see" film of the year and that's for a reason. Visually, Avatar is absolutely stunning and jaw-droppingly gorgeous. It's making my top ten just for the experience of seeing it was unlike anything I've gone through in a film in years and that should count for a lot. See it in its intended manner of IMAX 3D to get the full onslaught of the first film that has embraced a new genre I've dubbed--immersion cinema.
Almost making the cut, in no order: The Damned United, An Education, The Road, Moon, Bad Lieutenant, Two Lovers, Gomorra, Still Walking, Valentino: The Last Emperor, Goodbye Solo, Fantastic Mr. Fox and Tricks.